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April 2, 2019

Early Signs of Bipolar Disorder in Adult Children

Have you noticed your child’s mood shifting inexplicably? Young adults with bipolar disorder have periods of extreme happiness only to drop to a depressive state soon after. Bipolar disorder is manageable with an effective treatment plan, which could include therapy, medication, a consistent schedule and anything else that will keep your child on track.

Recognizing the telltale signs of bipolar disorder can be tricky. With bipolar disorder, the feelings and habits your child cycles through are moments of high energy – mistaken for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – and extreme lows which may be misdiagnosed as major depression.

Identifying Mania

Those experiencing mania exhibit drastically different mood shifts than their typical demeanor.

  • Easily distracted – They might become easily distracted, going back and forth between multiple topics without reason.
  • Reckless – Pay close attention if your child is acting more reckless with their spending—something you can monitor especially if they live at home.
  • Sleeplessness – Children going through a manic episode do not get much sleep and typically do not feel tired despite their lack of sleep. If they are away at college, ask them about their sleep habits.
  • Inflated sense of self – You might also notice your child has an inflated sense of self to the point where they might believe they are omnipotent.

Identifying Depression

Much like major depression, catching when your child is sad, low energy and cannot seem to think clearly could allow you to get them the help they need before they experience more severe side effects like suicidal ideation. Other aspects of a depressive episode may be:

  • Pain – complaining about a pain that will not go away,
  • Diet – drastic changes to eating habits
  • Isolation – favoring being alone over interacting with friends or family.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

If you believe your child has major depression or ADHD, look at all the warning signs together. If they have manic episodes as well as depressive episodes, your child might have bipolar disorder. It is important to speak to a medical health professional about the different illnesses your child could be experiencing. Certain medications – such as medications used to treat ADHD – may intensify the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and antidepressants may be helpful only when taken with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.

Combining medication with cognitive behavior therapy will also help your child cope with their illness. If your child is away at college, encourage them to access to their school’s counseling center, as most colleges offer those services to their students free of charge.

Reach out to your child at least once every few days; allow them the freedom to be away at school, but also recognize the transition to college can be particularly tough. Pay close attention to if there are any changes in the ways they discuss their time at school to monitor whether medications and therapy are effective.

Recognizing the early signs of bipolar disorder can be tricky; especially because young adults jump back and forth between extreme moods much more rapidly than older adults. Observe what they are going through, listen to them and offer your help.

Your child may want to treat their bipolar disorder with minimal involvement from others, or they may benefit from a therapeutic community environment. Regardless of treatment type, the first step is identifying the illness and taking the necessary steps to manage your child’s bipolar disorder.

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